During its rise to a key department in successful SaaS companies, customer success has typically been a “learn as we go” specialty. This adaptability and willingness to learn and grow are traits that make many customer success leaders so successful, but there comes a time when CS teams need a support system of their own. Enter: customer success operations.
If you need someone who can make customer success as smooth and efficient as possible for both customers AND your team, you may need an operations manager. This is a position that exists for other departments like sales, marketing, product, engineering, but is really just starting to become more common for CS teams.
What is Customer Success Operations?
If a customer success manager is in charge of looking out for customers, then the operations manager is responsible for supporting CSMs. Similar to sales operations or project management, customer success operations help steer the ship.
Customer success operations are all about discovering, implementing, and managing the best processes and tools for customer success departments to use. Simply put, CS Ops Managers handle strategic process decisions so that CSMs can focus on working hands-on with customers and do their best work in a streamlined practice.
Some of the responsibilities that customer success operations covers include:
- Creating and/or finding tools and dashboards to help CSMs monitor useful metrics such as product usage and customer health scores
- Auditing and improving customer success management workflows
- Sharing insights between departments and supporting company-wide CS alignment
- Forecasting workload, capacity planning, and CSM needs
How a Customer Success Operations Manager Can Help Your CS Team
If you already manage everything on the list of responsibilities above, you may not immediately understand how a separate ops role is useful. However, there’s power in shifting responsibilities and allowing for more specialized roles. Here’s how a CS ops manager can help your team.
Be a customer success data champion
Data and analytics are powerful tools for customer success managers. However, it takes time to give your full attention to segmentation, NPS scores, and more. A customer success ops manager can live and breathe data for the entire CS department. They can find points where data would be useful, compile insights to share across departments, and create custom dashboards for CSMs.
Not only that but with someone dedicated to this area, they’ll be able to look for any friction in the customer journey, sticking points for certain customer segments, opportunities for CSM training … all using data.
Make workflows more efficient
CS ops professionals can also take a fine-tooth comb to CSM workflows. Are there any redundant tasks that are taking up more time than they’re worth? Is there an information bottleneck that’s slowing down cross-team collaboration? Ops managers learn what CSMs need and make getting and using information easier.
As mentioned earlier, that can also include working with other departments to ensure handoff, communications, and directives are clear and valuable.
Better divide work between CSMs
Does your customer success department have a method for assigning accounts to managers? If new customers are simply passed off to the next CSM on the list, there may be room for improvement. An ops manager can learn the strengths of each CSM and assign accounts accordingly, even by focusing on customer segments.
An ops manager is also useful for advocating a need for more CSMs when it’s evident the current workload is too much. Capacity planning and forecasting are critical as you scale and your ops manager should be able to handle it beautifully.
Support new and existing CSMs
In addition to organizing how work is spread between the customer success team, an ops manager also helps new and existing team members with their day-to-day responsibilities. Having a customer success operations manager to onboard new success managers ensures that existing team members don’t have to get behind on their own tasks to show new hires the ropes (or at least not all the ropes).
Operations managers are also a point of contact for frustrations among CSMs. When a particular tool has issues, an ops leader can work with support so CSMs can stay in their groove. When CSMs notice mounting issues with a particular group of customers or a particular process, Operations can lead the charge toward a correction course.
Be a voice for CS needs across the organization
Customer success needs a seat at the executive table, and a customer success operations manager can act as the data-driven voice of the department. Since they’re the ones talking with CSMs every day, analyzing data, and compiling reports, these ops managers can speak well on behalf of the CS department. Having a customer success champion in your organization also makes it easier to set up channels of communication between teams.
When You Need to Add a CS Ops Manager
A customer success operations manager can help the right team tremendously. However, not every department needs to jump on the operations bandwagon right away. While there’s no single team size that signals it’s time for operations, an operations manager does need a team. If you only have a few CSMs in your department, you probably don’t need an operations manager yet. (Although it’s also important not to wait too long to recruit one; as your CSM team grows and more processes are put in place, it can be harder for a CS ops leader to come in and do their jobs well and can often require large overwrites of current procedures.)
Irrelevant of how many customer success managers you have, these are some signs you may need to scale your CS organization and add an operations person.
You don’t have a method for assigning customers to CSMs
While it’s possible to run a good customer success program without a CS sorting hat, you may run into inefficiencies down the road. Your customers will benefit from having the best CSM:customer fit possible, and being mindful about how workloads are split is helpful for everyone.
Your workflows are clunky and lacking insights
Efficiency isn’t just good for customers, it’s needed for your CSMs sanity. Redundant processes, or worse, a complete lack of playbooks, makes work frustrating. If success managers are so busy working within the department that they can’t take time to work on the department, an operations manager can help.
Your CS team is overwhelmed, and/or not hitting goals
If your customer success team is burdened by their workload or are struggling to work as a cohesive team, you may benefit from an ops manager. Metrics such as increasing churn or decreasing adoption signal issues in processes and customer satisfaction. An overworked or unorganized CS team may also inhibit cross-team collaboration.
Creating and evolving a customer success department is both an art and a science. Finding the right mix of tools, processes, and team members will take time and experimentation. Want to learn more about customer success? Here are 16 Books Every Customer Success Professional Must Read.